Our Digestive System is Not On Call 24 Hours a Day

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I was happy to find an article in The New York Times that reinforces the importance of eating healthy meals at regular times. This is an issue I have been writing and teaching about for more than 20 years, so it is nice to see these ideas getting mainstream support. The article links the effects of eating late and consuming sweets, soft drinks, and fatty foods with acid reflux. According to the author of the article, Jamie A. Koufman, MD, acid reflux produces a variety of symptoms in addition to heartburn and indigestion. Postnasal drip, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, chronic throat clearing, coughing and asthma are often reported symptoms with patients dealing with acid reflux. I find it interesting that many of these symptoms are perceived as being unrelated to acid reflux, but according to Oriental medicine, they are related to digestive and kidney function. Dr. Koufman comments that there has been a significant rise in the number of people dealing with acid reflex in the last 30 years as our food choices and meal times deteriorate.

In our new edition of The Complete Macrobiotic Diet, we have provided clear guidance around the content and times for healthy meals. Our digestive system is only able to digest and process our food at certain times of the day, and these have become recognized as meal times around the world.

These are start times and the meal actually begins when you sit down at the dining table. We recommend that breakfast start anywhere between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and even possibly 9 a.m. Lunch should begin between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. And dinner should start between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

In addition to not eating three hours before bedtime, it is important to make lunch a regular, consistent practice. The midday meal is the one meal you do not want to miss. In today’s hectic world, it is important to take the time to share meals together. Meals are a time to return to balance and reconnect with family, friends and loved ones. Sharing food together is not only an expression of our appreciation for food and nature, but also for each other.

Birthday celebration at SHI

Birthday celebration at SHI

No Comments | Tags: acid reflux, Adjusting Your Diet, digestion, healthy living, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics, meal times

Do you soak your grain?

Posted on by Denny Waxman
Rice growing in the fields of Blue Moon Acres Farm.

Rice growing in the fields of Blue Moon Acres Farm.

A number of my longtime clients are elderly women who have come to me with a variety of health concerns.  I have counseled these women over many years regarding their diet and lifestyle practices according to macrobiotic principles.  Some of these women have had serious falls where you would except them to break a bone,  and surprisingly they have not.  I attribute their strong bones and quick recovery to their macrobiotic practice.  Even those of my clients that have experienced broken bones, have healed in about half the time expected.  This would not be the case if they had osteoporosis.

 

In addition, my longtime observation is that children who were born and raised following the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle have stronger and thicker bones than their peers.   This is something I have found to be true around the world.  Both of these situations lead me to believe that there is not a problem with phytic acid and mineral absorption from the amount of grain we eat as part of our macrobiotic practice.

 

There is a general consensus that soaking grains is desirable for taste and digestibility; however there is not a general agreement on the best method for soaking grains.  I found the information in the blog post from macrosano.com very interesting and helpful.  I would like to inform you of the way we recommend soaking grains.  Experiment and see which way you like best.  The only way to really know is to try a specific way for weeks or months and try to see which method is more suitable.  If you are not sure, you can always vary your soaking method.

 

This is our method for soaking and cooking rice.  We recommend rinsing the rice in cold water two or three times.  Measure out the water for cooking and soak overnight or longer, basically between 8-22 hours.  Overnight soaking is more beneficial.  When ready to cook the rice, add a pinch of sea salt or a half inch square piece of kombu and then boil or pressure cook as normal.

We’ve been soaking grains in this way for many years and feel very comfortable in it.  Brown rice is the most sensitive food to our intentions, feelings and emotions; it is uniquely sensitive to our own condition.  Taking time to properly prepare rice in this manner ensures a happy and satisfying meal.  Soaking and cooking rice in this manner is not an afterthought; it is an act that conveys respect and appreciation.

Rice drying at Blue Moon Acres Farm

Rice drying at Blue Moon Acres Farm

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, grains, Macrobiotics, osteoporosis, plant-based diet

Evidence is Mounting About the Relationship between Diet and Health

Posted on by Denny Waxman

It is becoming more and more evident that diet can prevent and even reverse serious illness including many cancers.  This means that our health is in our own hands.  I find it interesting that there is so much resistance to this vital and life changing information.  Two articles, Can Cancer Be Prevented- and Even Cured- Through Diet? This Scientist is Convinced it Can; T. Colin Campbell has set off a war with the food industry, and This Breast Cancer Month, Don’t think Pink- Think Green, present important information that you can use in the discussion of diet, health and illness.

Rice from Blue Moon Acres Farm.

Rice from Blue Moon Acres Farm.

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, cancer prevention, diet and health, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics

More on Gut Microbes

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I found an interesting article from NPR about gut microbes and diet soda. Healthy gut microbes aide in digestion and absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste. All of these processes are supported by good eating habits and a whole-foods plant-based diet, together with naturally fermented and pickled foods. I have discussed the details of these processes in another blog.

As healthy gut microbes diminish, unhealthy ones try to take over. Certain foods specifically interfere with our healthy gut microbes. The most harmful foods are artificial sweeteners, chemicalized foods, iced drinks and cold foods like ice cream and frozen yogurt. Hard baked flour products, dairy, and animal based products also interfere with the healthy functioning of our gut. If we cannot eliminate unhealthy foods, they have more of a tendency to putrefy and toxify us.

Common sense tells us that natural foods simply prepared nurture healthy gut microbes. It has been my longtime observation that people that consume these harmful foods have more problems with weight, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of cancers. It is not a good idea to wait for scientific evidence to come to a final decision regarding our diets. Grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits have weathered the test of time and have proven to support our health.

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5 Comments | Tags: gut microbes, healthy eating, Macrobiotics, plant-based diet, whole-foods, Yogurt

You can Nurture the Earth

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Neal Barnard wrote a great article for The Huffington Post this past summer.  He clarifies the social and environmental benefits of eating a grain and bean based diet.   It is becoming increasingly clear that the time is now to start eating grains, beans and other plant based foods directly, rather than using these foods to raise animals in factory farms.

The strengthening health approach to macrobiotics is a perfect solution to this problem, as it encourages adding, rather than taking away.  I have observed that as people make the choice to incorporate grains, beans and vegetables into their diet, the attraction to less healthy foods diminishes naturally.  Health craves health.  In my own life, brown rice was my first step towards a healthier diet.  After eating brown rice, the vegetables I had shunned for years became delicious and attractive, and after that I started to seek out more and more healthier foods.  Eating my last Philly cheesesteak at 19 years old left me with a sense of joy and adventure, rather than loss.

Jim Lyons with Blue Moon Acres Farm is growing rice in New Jersey.

Jim Lyons with Blue Moon Acres Farm is growing rice in New Jersey.

We can no longer separate personal, social, and environmental health.  The macrobiotic approach is wonderful because it gives us the guidelines to make these vitally important choices everyday and know that we are doing our part to nurture the health of our planet.  I hope you use these principles to move yourself and loved ones towards a healthier lifestyle.

No Comments | Tags: Environment, Macrobiotics, Neal Barnard, Nurture, Plant based diet, Rice

Lou Gehrig and Macrobiotics

Posted on by Denny Waxman

For many Americans, Lou Gehrig is remembered as the Iron Horse, playing 17 seasons for the New York Yankees, but for many others, he is associated with ALS, or amytophic lateral sclerosis. Between 1925 and 1939 Gehrig didn’t miss a game; his prowess as a hitter won him national acclaim. So when at the age of 35 his batting average slowed, it was clear something was wrong. Doctors did not diagnose Gehrig with ALS at that time, but did identify problems with his gall bladder. Three years later, Gehrig would be dead from the effects of ALS, a rapidly progressive, fatal disease that degenerates the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

 

Today ALS is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease and according to the ALS Association more than 30,000 Americans are effected by the disease. From a macrobiotic perspective, ALS is caused by an imbalanced diet and lifestyle. A diet that is rich in heavy animal foods, like meat, poultry, eggs, shellfish, and other fatty animal foods, together with fruits, citrus, chocolate, cold foods, like ice cream, and iced drinks, has an adverse effect on the stomach and pancreas. Medications and chemically altered foods may also play a part.

 

I became interested in Lou Gehrig’s diagnosis of ALS after seeing a photograph of him with Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth. In the image Gehrig’s arms are crossed in front of his stomach, a sharp contrast to Foxx and Ruth, appearing open with arms at their sides; for me it was apparent there was a correlation between his posture and weakness in his central digestive organs, especially his pancreas. According to macrobiotic diagnosis, Gehrig’s posture, arms folded and slightly leaning forward, shows a weakness in the central digestive system, especially the stomach and pancreas.

gehrig-foxx-ruth-2

I began to wonder what Lou Gehrig’s diet might have been like. After searching around the internet, I found a blog post, http://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/als-aka-lou-gehrigs-disease/ that described Gehrig’s diet as being rich in sodium and fats. His favorite foods were fried eel and shrimp, and he loved other fatty foods.

 

It seems that those involved with sports and entertainment are among the highest percentage of people to develop ALS. Athletes and performers often live chaotic lives. Because the pancreas thrives on order and regularity of meal times and lifestyle practices, it is important to establish consistency.

 

The foods that harm our central digestive organs also effect our motor neurons. The macrobiotic approach is to replace foods heavy in animal protein and fat with plant based protein and vegetable oil. It is important to have a very wide and varied macrobiotic practice. In addition, we recommend rubbing the body, especially the extremities with a damp, warm cloth morning and night to help circulation. To benefit from macrobiotics practices, an experienced and qualified macrobiotics counselor is needed to complement any medical treatment.

7 Comments | Tags: Uncategorized

Something to Digest

Posted on by Denny Waxman

In Oriental medicine, the body is thought to be composed of complementary systems.  In our digestive system, we actually have a second brain called the enteric nervous system.  The same kind of cells are found in both systems. From birth, our gut bacteria guides the development of our immune system and brain.  This ongoing relationship continues throughout our life.  The digestive system processes liquids (food and drink); and the nervous system processes vibrations, or thoughts and images.  Healthy digestion fosters healthy thinking.

 

Creating healthy gut bacteria starts with good eating habits.  That means sitting down to eat without distractions, at regular, recurring times.  In addition, good gut bacteria are fostered by natural activities, like walking, gardening, cleaning and sex.

 

Our gut is nourished by both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are in essence fiber and serve as food for the probiotics, which are the actual bacteria and yeast that inhabit our digestive system.  Probiotics aid in the synthesis of vitamins and other valuable nutrients.

 

Fiber has a variety of functions: it activates and scours our digestive system, and binds with toxins and cholesterol to expel them from our body.  Fiber encourages the growth of healthy bacteria and suppresses the development of harmful bacteria.  Naturally fermented, pickled and unpasteurized foods are important and healthy sources of probiotics.

 

The most important prebiotics are found in whole grains, beans, fruits, and land and sea vegetables.  Sea vegetables include the most common seaweeds, like Nori, dulse, wakame and kombu.

 

Try to get a variety of naturally pickled, fermented, and unpasteurized foods, which come from grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.  The most important probiotics are miso, umeboshi plum, sauerkraut, and kimchi.  The full value of miso comes out when used as a soup.  When miso soup is made, the enzymes become activated and the liquid form is easy to absorb into the digestive system.  Umeboshi is a unique Japanese plum that encourages growth of healthy bacteria, and suppresses unhealthy bacteria.  It has a salty and tangy taste that goes well with grains.

 

Try to observe the connection between your digestion and your moods and thoughts.  I hear consistently from my counseling clients that they feel better, think more clearly, and sleep more soundly in a very short period of time.  A combination of sound eating habits, healthy activities and dietary choices creates the best nourishment and digestion.

digestive

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics

Linking emotions and nature: The Macrobiotic Diet

Posted on by Denny Waxman

Emotions are a bridge between the mind and body.  When we eat local and unrefined food, prepared with care and love, our mind follows with flowing, harmonious emotions.  Our natural state is a calm, peacefulness, flowing into joy. Healthy emotions allow us to deal smoothly with all aspects of life.  As the seasons shift, as do emotions; summer is greeted with a full bloom of emotions, while winter may bring more solitary, subdued feelings.

 

Emotions are directly linked to our health; consuming meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, puts emotions on edge, causing them to surge or remain stagnant.  For those of us living in temperate climatic regions, certain foods interfere with our ability to express emotions well, especially tropical foods, iced foods and chemicals.  The most common are: banana, coconut, ice cream, yogurt, iced drinks, artificial sweeteners, and heavily chemicalized foods.

 

Foods that nourish our emotional health also produce health at all levels, including cardiovascular health.  A plant based diet, consisting of grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, seeds and seasonal fruits creates a happy equilibrium between the body and mind.  These same foods foster a direct connection between our mind and body, and the environment and nature.

 

Health is our default state.  This includes body and mind; we want to exist with balance between each.  The modern and contemporary lifestyle is creating a disconnect between our physical and emotional state and the environment.  To return to a plant based diet means restoring the connection between the environment and our emotional nature.

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The Age of Macrobiotics

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I was happy to read Dr. Neal Barnard’s blog yesterday which shares some of the inner workings of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee at the National Institutes of Health and how the recommended diet for people across the country is made. He says this year, the advisory committee listened to the urgings of the Physicians Committee doctors and dietitians to promote and encourage a more plant-based diet to the people. This blog entry demonstrates that we are beginning to move in a direction of health. There are signs that we can see through the media and our personal conversations every day showing that we are on the cusp of a nutritional and biological revolution.

 

My presentation this year at the Kushi Summer Conference centered around the theme of the age of macrobiotics. I feel that the age of macrobiotics will begin its unfolding within two to three years. My interpretation is based on recent changes in society, mostly in the attitude and acceptance of the connection between diet and health and between food, agriculture, the environment and climate—including global warming. The caring for and attitude towards animals is also changing. Our consciousness is expanding to include all of ourselves, the planet and all of life. We are also recognizing that the largest way we can stem global warming is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animals, especially beef. There is not an agreement on the ideal way of eating yet, but there is general consensus that what and how what we eat is the most important factor on regulating our health.

Some students and I at the Kushi Summer Conference

At the Kushi Summer Conference with some students

 

I call it the age of macrobiotics because I feel that macrobiotics itself is coming into its time. This is because macrobiotics is much more than a diet, it is a way of life, which includes our approach to eating, as well as activity and lifestyle practices. In today’s day and age, it is difficult for many people to listen to their bodies and intuition. Macrobiotics rekindles a relationship with our inner voice, which helps us to get in touch with what is really important to us. It also realigns our life in a healthy and meaningful direction.

 

It’s my observation that health craves health and health is contagious. Healthy people, simply speaking, want to make more and more healthy choices in all aspects of their lives. They also want to share health with as many people as possible. It’s an exciting time because there are so many people coming together to make changes for healthier people and a healthier planet. Macrobiotics is unique for its ability to unify and harmonize diversity. It is the philosophy of balance, harmony, and change. Care and love of quality are also inherent to macrobiotics. It’s my hope that this way of life will be the hub that can strengthen and unify our movement towards health.

2 Comments | Tags: 7 Steps

Diet is Related to More Than Personal Health

Posted on by Denny Waxman

It’s no longer a personal choice of whether to eat animal or dairy foods or not. Our planet can only support the production of animal and dairy foods for a limited number of people. At the same time, the environmental effects of animal and dairy foods is devastating. Take a look at this graph that shows the differences of impact from a vegan diet, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, and an omnivorous diet*.

Environmental Impact from Various Diets from MDPI study

Environmental Impact from Various Diets from MDPI study

Whether we like it or not, everything we do impacts climate, society and the environment. It is becoming more clear that eating and raising animals is the most devastating thing we are doing to the environment.

So it’s no longer a question about what the healthiest diet is. Raising grains, beans, and vegetables and eating them directly nourishes us at the most basic level. You can feed the entire planet on grains and beans and the agriculture devoted to the cultivation of grains and beans is in turn nurturing and sustaining to the planet. Understanding this connection means that we can all do our part to restore and help the environment we live in to heal.

*Baroni, L.; Berati, M.; Candilera, M.; Tettamanti, M. Total Environmental Impact of Three Main Dietary Patterns in Relation to the Content of Animal and Plant Food. Foods 20143, 443-460.

No Comments | Tags: Articles and Research